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What Congress Didn’t Do This Week to Stop Terrorism

In the wake of the terrible tragedy in Orlando Sunday, GOP leadership plans to take a victory lap after holding a vote on a bill that combines three counterterrorism bills that have already passed the House individually.

These bills supposedly “counter violent extremism” (CVE,) but they actually do nothing to tackle the underlying danger that Islamic extremism poses here in the U.S. “Countering violent extremism” is a euphemistic, politically-correct term that refuses to name, let alone solve, the threat posed to the U.S by Islamists across the globe.

For the first time in a decade, Americans rank terrorism as the top problem the U.S. faces, and the fact that there are nearly  900 homegrown ISIS cases being investigated by the FBI across all 50 states shows that these concerns are valid. Instead of passing a package of do-nothing bills and touting a national security agenda that is little more than rhetorical talking points, GOP leadership should allow votes on bills that will ensure the safety and security of all U.S. citizens.

The House voted overwhelmingly last November to enhance screening for refugees from Syria and other terror hot spots. The SAFE Act received overwhelming support because of the current vulnerabilities in our refugee program. I, along with Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas,) have asked leadership to include these enhanced security measures in a must-pass spending bill. So far, they have not responded.

Here are a few examples of other bills that Republican leadership could choose to prioritize similarly.

The Expatriate Terrorist Act would revoke the passport of anyone who pledges allegiance to the Islamic State or other foreign terrorist organization. This is a clear, common-sense bill that the American people can support.

Kate’s Law would increase penalties for illegal aliens who return to the U.S. after being deported and include a five-year minimum sentencing requirement.

Another bill, the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act, would allow state and local governments the option to decide if refugees should be settled within their communities and gives Congress the authority to set the number of overall total refugees the U.S. accepts.

Instead of these strong legislative responses, GOP leadership will allow a vote on a bill this week that creates boards that advise on how to counter “violent extremism” and evaluates how we can better support governments that are “countering violent extremism.” It also directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to incorporate this namby-pamby phrase into its public statements.

Even President Barack Obama conceded that “lone actors or small cells of terrorists are very hard to detect and very hard to prevent.” There are good, common-sense bills that can make the U.S. safer and reduce the threat of terrorism, but the bill that the House will vote on this week is not it.

While the details of the Orlando case are still emerging, one thing is certain: the gunman was clearly a homegrown terrorist who  called 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS. Gaps in national security have been acknowledged by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI.)  ISIS has promised to take advantage of these security gaps and to exploit the refugee crisis to infiltrate the West.

The threat posed by Islamic extremists here in the United States is no longer theoretical, and the GOP response should offer a strong, clear alternative to President Obama’s dithering. This is not the time for fanciful platitudes, but rather for action.

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